From Rags to Riches

by Calendar Hacksaw

Olí Betty threatened to cut me off if I didnít get around to clearing the workbench in the garage. So one Saturday morning in late January, I set about to undo 28 years worth of poor organizational hygiene.

Twenty-eight years can go by pretty fast, and the workbench stood as mute testimony to dreams gone sour. Itís fully 12-feet long, 2-feet deep, and when I built it, I dreamed of many projects to which it would give birth. But, alas, she seemed fallow.

The magnitude of the clean-up job seemed enormous. Nowhere was the bench top visible, piled as it was a foot or two high from end-to-end with a vast array of papers, electronics, hardware and some smelly stuff I couldnít identify.

To make the job a little easier, I decided I needed a "plan," so I sat down with a couple of cold ones to think it over.

After many cold ones, I concluded that each item on the workbench should be held up to the candlelight of five evaluating principles, to wit:

  1. What is the likelihood of near-term or annual use?
  2. What would be the cost to replace the item?
  3. Is ease of accessibility required?
  4. Is it a duplicate?
  5. Does it involve a "project in progress," andóif soówhat is the likelihood of that undertaking ever being finished?

With these simple guiding questions in mind, I planted myself firmly at the west end and began my eastward trek through time and space.

First came stacks of clean rags, neatly folded; a necessity for any garage, mostly made up of worn-out bath towel remnants. Iím not sure of all the reasons, but old folks generally have a lot more bath towel remnants than do younger folks. I couldnít figure out why I had amassed a collection of more than 200 bath towel rags, so I bagged up about a hundred of them and left Ďem on the front porch of a young neighbor.

Next came a 4" piece of plank flooring. Another remnant; this one from the outhouse, where I still need two 4í sections of plank to complete the job. Attached to the sample with a rubber band is a newspaper ad for a store in L.A. that might be able to help me out, if Iím ever up that way. Youíd think it would be reasonable and prudent to finish building an outhouse within 10 years, wouldnít you?

Hats, hats, everywhere. Cowboy hats, straw hats, stupid hats and baseball caps laden with advertising. Only one piece of headwear worth keeping, and itís plumb worn out. Betty made it for me; it has the Twisted Sisters Ranch brand on the front. I canít bear to part with it, so Iíll just hang it on the wall the next time Iím on the mountain. Thatís where it belongs, and thatís where itíll spend its remaining days, in peace.

Hereís a torn scrap of envelope with a return address on it that reads "310 McPherson Ave., Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027." Some of you might recognize that address; some might have lived there. The fellow who gave it to me didnít learn much from the experience.

A collection of 8 rusted snuff can lids I picked up along the road while hitchhiking north of Mangum, Oklahoma in 1982. I thought Iíd use them to make a mobile or wind chime, then let Moody auction it off later in the year. Good idea, or bad?

The seeds I never planted for the second garden of 1999, as the summer was too cool and the first garden a disappointment. Thereís pinto beans, lima beans and white bush squash. Maybe I should just donate them to that Jackie Spanley woman who writes the gardening pieces for the TOGS website, and see if maybe sheíd be willing to share the harvest.

I ran across a mailing address for "Jasper T. Crowley," and at first I couldnít place the name. Then it came to me and I couldnít help but smile. I doubt if thatís his real name, though; probably something he made up.

An old score card from when me and my neighbor competed in the North American Open steel tip dart tournament in Las Vegas. Didnít fare well: lost in the first round one year, and the second round a year later. What an experience and adrenaline rush it was, though, rubbing shoulders with some of the worldís best athletes.

The "Local News" page from the Bakersfield Californian, dated Saturday, February 28, 1998, recounting the events of the previous Monday night, when Jim and Olivia Silas scrambled to high ground to escape the torrential floodwaters of Caliente Creek. Other quotes from the likes of Robinson, Layman, Ramey and Hawkins. I think Iíll frame this one and mount it on the wall, as a reminder of natureís wrath.

As darkness fell, I finally reached the east end of the workbench, piled high with cassette recordings of every description. It took a long time to sort them out and file them away. Does anyone know who Clabe Hangan is, and why Iíd have a tape of his childrenísí songs?

All in all, it was a rewarding experience, although Iíd hoped to find a pair of burgundy bush jeans I misplaced in 1975. I guess some things just arenít meant to be found.

But who would have guessed that "Memory Lane" could be just 12-feet long and 2-feet wide? I guess this old workbench of mine wasnít fallow after all; she just gave birth to this column.

Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at, and heíd like to remind those who need to know that pepper is a spice, and salt is a seasoning. Respect the difference.

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